After seven long years since their last record, Toronto’s premier occult rockers Blood Ceremony have returned. The Old Ways Remain is the end product of an arduous period of songwriting dating back to the 2020 lockdown. I first caught the Canadians performing at Psycho Las Vegas 2017 and was thoroughly impressed with their marriage of Jethro Tull and Coven with contemporary flourishes and folk influences. If you’re wondering what the ideal background music for your Aleister Crowley/Wicker Man-themed party might be, this album may be just what you’re looking for.
The aptly named The Hellfire Club brings the familiar Blood Ceremony formula, namely Alia O’Brien’s smokey croon and Ian Anderson-style flute accompanied by Sean Kennedy’s vintage guitar tone. It’s a lively number with a decent amount of tempo changes. However, I much prefer the second track, Ipsissimus. It’s much punchier with a lot of vigor, and it actually made me want to play the tambourine along with it although luckily for my neighbors, I don’t own one!
The undeniable groove of Eugenie is also infectious, with O’Brien making fantastic use of her vocal range alongside the sexy strut accompanied with hand percussion, organ and saxophone. Lolly Windows heavy use of reverb gives it a quality of being recorded in a dungeon or cave, while The Bonfires At Belloc Coombe hits with ‘70s Alice Cooper flavor.
Blood Ceremony’s most ambitious record to date…
Ironically, I actually think Blood Ceremony does occult rock better than some of their influences, namely Black Widow and Coven. There are plenty of the appropriate witchy Eldritch vibes and mystical themes, but it strikes me as far less pretentious than those aforementioned acts. It is rare that I would venture to say that an old genre is actually refined in this day and age.
The ripping Widdershins is probably my favorite track, with bassist Lucas Gadke and drummer Michael Carrillo really holding their own. The nice sunny ballad Hecate is a departure, taking a break from the darkness with a noticeably upbeat feeling whilst still being a song about the Greek goddess of sorcery. I’d say the only track I wasn’t crazy about is Powers Of Darkness, which just seems to lack some of the energy and focus of the rest of the album.
Needless to say, this might be Blood Ceremony’s most ambitious record to date. I found it catchier than 2016’s Lord Of Misrule, and the production values and sonic quality are absolutely top notch. The old ways have definitely not gone out of style, and this album manages to be a strongly satisfying listen.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh